Jason Smith shines a light on the fate of Torreya taxifolia on the Tallahassee news.
Today in the journal Science, renowned biologist and writer Edward O. Wilson reflects on his experiences in the Florida panhandle, and answers some questions about the critically endangered Florida torreya tree.
E. O. Wilson wants to save rare Florida tree
Government officials, conservationists, and researchers—including renowned Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson—will gather next week in Bristol, Florida, to discuss the fate of the Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia). Also known as stinking cedar, it is considered by many to be the most endangered tree species in the world. A deadly fungus has killed all but about 1000 trees, most of which grow along a 56-kilometer stretch of Florida’s Apalachicola River, and the pathogen has already infected the remaining trees. Science caught up with Wilson, who has been called “the father of biodiversity,” on the eve of his trip to the meeting.
Q:When did you first find out the Florida torreya was in trouble?
A:In July 1957. I was collecting ants up and down the Florida peninsula and panhandle. At Torreya State Park, we got a lot of good stuff. But we noticed that this marvelous endemic [tree] from the ice age was wilted. So, this is how it began, and now it’s on its last legs.
Q:What makes this tree and region special to you?
A:It’s where I come from, where I spent my boyhood. Not exactly there, but an area like that. I go to somewhere on the Gulf Coast several times a year, as I’ve been active in doing research to propose a new national park in the Mobile-Tensaw River delta [in Alabama] and to promote the setting up of a biodiversity corridor [that] would stretch from somewhere around Tallahassee and along the Gulf Coast as far as Louisiana. The Apalachicola River might be part of that.
Q:Can this tree be saved?
A:There is an out. The torreya has become a reasonably popular ornamental, and it’s being widely distributed. And in the return of the American chestnut, where there seemed to be no hope after it went completely extinct—therein lies the story of what could happen to the torreya. I’d like to see the torreya become a symbol and an issue that people are interested in.
More information concerning the upcoming event is available here…
Laurel wilt is an extraordinarily destructive exotic tree disease in the southeastern United States that involves new-encounter hosts in the Lauraceae, an introduced vector (Xyleborus glabratus) and pathogen symbiont (Raffaelea lauricola). USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data were used to estimate that over 300 million trees of redbay (Persea borbonia sensu lato) have succumbed to the disease since the early 2000s (ca 1/3 of the pre-invasion population). In addition, numerous native shrub and tree species in the family are susceptible and threatened in the Western Hemisphere. Genetic markers were used to test the hypothesis that the vector and pathogen entered North America as a single introduction. With a portion of the cytochrome oxidase I gene, a single X. glabratus haplotype was detected in the USA. Similarly, Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms indicated that 95% (54 of 57) of the isolates of R. lauricola that were examined were of a single clonal genotype; only minor variation was detected in three polymorphic isolates. Similar levels of disease developed after swamp bay (P. palustris) was inoculated with each of the four genotypes of R. lauricola. It is proposed that a single founding event is responsible for the laurel wilt epidemic in the United States.
Today Jason Smith will be speaking at Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources graduate seminar today about the current state and future impacts of Laurel Wilt Disease.
Native Lauraceae (e.g. sassafras, redbay) in the southeastern USA are being severely impacted by laurel wilt disease, which is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola T. C. Harr., Fraedrich and Aghayeva, and its symbiotic vector, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff). Cold temperatures are currently the only viable limitation to the establishment of X. glabratus in northern populations of sassafras…
Our postdoc Tania Quesada has been working on the genetics of growth in southern pine. Here is a new paper on the genetic architecture of shoot phenology in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) from the CCLONES (Comparing Clonal Lines On Experimental Sites) study.
I did a live interview with WGCU’s Julie Glenn today. Hear the latest on the disease and efforts to fight it:
Laurel wilt research in the news: Miami Herald reports on UF Forest Pathology lab efforts to identify effective repellents to protect avocado trees from Laurel Wilt Disease vector, the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle.
A disease new to our region appears to be causing significant damage to native pine species in North and Central Florida, and may be spreading. We need your help to determine the current extent and learn more about this potentially damaging disease to such a economically and ecologically important tree species. Click here to see more information and learn how you can participate.
Our studies with European bay laurel show it is highly susceptible to laurel wilt. The Disease Note is in the August issue of Plant Disease: